That little blue sticker on Chiquita bananas represents one of the best-known brands in all of produce. But like other brands, it doesn’t ring as many bells for younger consumers as it did for their parents.
It’s Rob Adams’ job to change that.
Adams, 48, became director of marketing and channel sales for Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands International this year. He started with Chiquita in 2007 as trade marketing manager and moved up through other roles along the way.
“A lot of companies are in the same position,” Adams said. “We’re trying to understand the millennial generation that’s going to be even bigger than the baby boomers. They don’t engage as much with brands.”
Joint promotions with video games and movies were part of the response to that challenge. Game partnerships included Sega of America’s Super Monkey Ball Step & Roll and Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country Returns. This summer saw a cross promotion of the animated “Despicable Me 2.”
“We get a lot of calls from different movie studios, from all kinds of companies,” Adams said. “They are starting to understand how much exposure their label can get on the banana table alongside Chiquita. But I’ve been very selective.”
Bananas appeared in both video games, which were played on the Wii Fit platform. In “Despicable Me 2,” the characters’ fondness for bananas inspired a website, MinionsLoveBananas.com, featuring Chiquita.
Doug Roach, owner of Blink Marketing Group, collaborated with Adams on Chiquita marketing projects.
“Everybody knows the Chiquita brand, but we don’t have a multi-million dollar, packaged goods kind of budget to run ads that will get us the next generation of shoppers,” Roach said.
“Rob had responsibility for what goes on the banana stickers,” Roach said. “The number of impressions those bananas have in grocery is staggering. He ran with that and made it into a marketing endeavor.”
When he came to Chiquita, Adams had more experience in sales than marketing, and no background in fresh produce. He’d been a regional manager for Rubbermaid Commercial Products and a district manager for Georgia Pacific, both in Cincinnati.
For most of his time at Chiquita he reported to Craig Stephen, vice president and general manager of the company’s North American fresh fruit business.
“Rob was very good at coming out of a different industry and understanding some of the issues with produce,” said Stephen, now chief strategy officer for N2N Global. “He’s a practical marketer and collaborator who can interact well on both operations and sales.”
Adams’ other accomplishments at Chiquita include helping the company create it first consumer website, ChiquitaBananas.com, and launch Chiquita to Go, individual bananas sold at convenience stores.
“There’s the opportunity to do not only marketing but product management all the way from the farm through the supply chain to the store and make sure it works,” Adams said.